Dear Amy: Growing up, I was close friends with a guy in the neighborhood. We remained close friends over the years, but as life happened, we drifted apart.
I stayed in the same town, while he moved more than 40 minutes away.
We got together for dinner every couple of months, but that habit faded, too.
After not hearing from him for a long while, he finally called me, and we got together.
He had contracted a neurological disease that runs in his family.
I felt horrible for him, but he waited more than a year to call me.
We had drifted apart by this time, so I understand the gap in contact.
However, I feel some guilt that over the past couple of years I haven’t reached out.
My wife says that both he or his family could also have reached out to me.
He knows that I have been through some rough times.
Should I continue to feel guilty?
Dear Guilty: Don’t ask if you “should” feel guilty. You already feel guilty. Your dilemma now is what to do about it.
I have a theory that our guilt is actually a tool whose real purpose is to ratchet — or alter — our behavior. What is your guilt going to teach you?
Your less-rational mind is telling you that if you had been in closer touch, or perhaps been a better friend to him, then maybe the outcome would have been different. At the very least, you would have known about it sooner and perhaps chosen to keep in closer touch.
What you should NOT do is to blame your friend for not getting in touch with you. He has a lot going on. When he was ready, he did reach out to you.
Some people react poorly when faced with others’ challenging illnesses. They double-down on their guilt — and run away. Don’t be that guy. Let your guilt lead you toward a better friendship. When you do, you’ll feel better.
Dear Amy: I grew up in an abusive household.
I realized at some point that most (if not all) of my relationships, sexual and otherwise, were with individuals who demeaned and abused me in one way or another.
I had this realization when I was 39 and started purging and disconnecting from these individuals.
Now I’m 42. I’ve retained contact with only three individuals from my past, but I realized after the pandemic started (when my mind gained even more clarity) that even these very minimal connections were fraught with jealousy (theirs, not mine), and one individual was constantly angry.
I stopped reaching out to her because I couldn’t handle so much negativity, and then she got angry at me for not returning her text messages.
I realize that I need to completely sever myself from my past.
I see that the relationships I’ve created up until now are ALL connected to my past energy of feeling unworthy and needing affirmation from an outside source.
I no longer have this need.
I know I sound delusional, but I’m feeling sad to say goodbye to my past (as horrible as it may be) because it’s like a death, even though I know it will be a freeing experience.
I guess I’m really writing to you because I needed to hear myself say it.
— Ready to Shed my Skin
Dear Ready to Shed: I think it’s natural to mourn the passing of your previous identity. Shedding skin (as you put it) can be painful and destabilizing.
Watch a butterfly emerge from a cocoon some time. Before the liberation, comes the discomfort.
I hear from so many people who stay trapped in toxic or abusive relationships because they are afraid to be alone. But — as you know — there is no loneliness quite like the loneliness you feel when you are with people who degrade you.
Go forth and start anew!
Dear Amy: “Old Veteran” claimed to be a Vietnam Vet who is uncomfortable when people say, “Thank you for your service.”
This man claimed that veterans were spit on, called “baby killer,” etc.
This is a widely known urban myth. I was shocked that you didn’t call him on it.
Dear Upset: I was a child during the Vietnam era and while I can’t verify returning veterans being spit on, I do know that returning soldiers were not always treated well, which is why I believe that civilians now go out of their way to thank members of the military for their service.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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